Self-regulation skills are lifelong skills children need to be taught from an early age. Yes, even infants can begin to learn self-regulation strategies. Caretakers can model staying calm for children. Remember to use a quiet, gentle tone when addressing any situation. You will need to help children learn to identify their emotions, how their bodies feel, and how to handle them in a socially acceptable manner. You want to make sure you teach these skills when the children are in a calm state and can be engaged in what you are teaching them. It is best to use visual aids to help children remember what to do in the moment.

Talking to children throughout the day about everything that is going on with them and around them:

  • You might say to an infant, “I know you are fussy because you are hungry, I am getting your bottle ready.” and show them a picture of a bottle or let them see you making the bottle.”
  • To a toddler you might say, “I see you are angry that we must go inside, it’s okay to be angry, maybe we can go outside later.” and showing them the daily schedule that indicates outside time after naptime.
  • To a preschooler you might say, “I see you are crying, are you sad/mad/frustrated that someone knocked over your tower? That would make me upset too.”

In any of these situations, let the child know that it is okay to have the emotion and offer suggestions for helping them regulate the emotion:

  • You can place the infant on a blanket and say. “You are safe here until I come back with your bottle and then I will hold you.”
  • Let the toddler know it is okay to be angry and offer another activity or for them to go to the calm down area for a while. Always be available to talk when THEY are ready.
  • In the preschool room you might offer the visual of smelling the flower and blowing the pinwheel (maybe even have a pinwheel available). 

For more information on teaching regulation skills please visit the NCPMI website resource library.


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